Moral and religious convictions: Are they the same or different things?

PLoS One. 2018 Jun 21;13(6):e0199311. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0199311. eCollection 2018.


People often assume that moral and religious convictions are functionally the same thing. But are they? We report on 19 studies (N = 12,284) that tested whether people's perceptions that their attitudes are reflections of their moral and religious convictions across 30 different issues were functionally the same (the equivalence hypothesis) or different constructs (the distinct constructs hypothesis), and whether the relationship between these constructs was conditional on political orientation (the political asymmetry hypothesis). Seven of these studies (N = 5,561, and 22 issues) also had data that allowed us to test whether moral and religious conviction are only closely related for those who are more rather than less religious (the secularization hypothesis), and a narrower form of the political asymmetry and secularization hypotheses, that is, that people's moral and religious convictions may be tightly connected constructs only for religious conservatives. Meta-analytic tests of each of these hypotheses yielded weak support for the secularization hypothesis, no support for the equivalence or political asymmetry hypotheses, and the strongest support for the distinct constructs hypothesis.

MeSH terms

  • Culture*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Morals*
  • Politics
  • Religion*

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.